Proposing Values and Practices for a Culture of Organizational Ingenuity: Hacking Systems Thinking to Pursue the Preposterous and Produce the Impossible
Keywords:systems thinking, innovative, business, resilience, human factor
What is the difference between people outside, or within, organizations that look at a problem with a lot of limits and see unusual and new possibilities, and those who look at a problem with a lot of limits and see no way out? How would an organization intentionally transform its worldview and its problem-solving practices to creatively reconsider its own structures, policies, and assumptions when solutions to key needs and complex problems are limited or prevented by institutional or resource constraints? Education, government, and business leaders agree that creativity and innovation are essential for future organizational success and even survival, yet leaders are often blinded by past policies, organizational goals, or assumptions about resources and systems relationships when faced with complex and changing problems. However, research suggests that there are qualitative differences between individuals, teams, and organizations that become cleverly, resourcefully innovative in the face of complex problems under constraints, and those who do not. The culture and practices that activate shrewd, transdisciplinary, and unconventional problem-solving in the face of resource limits and other constraints are associated with a familiar, but largely unexamined, concept called ingenuity. Most frequently, ingenuity has been used to describe innovative solutions that are surprisingly smart, unconventionally resourceful, and contextually superior, often completely changing an institution or social-technical culture. In this messy intersection where creative, innovative problem-solving is at once demanded and prevented, ingenuity is the human factor necessary to hack the hairball, to pursue the impossible by being willing to seek unconventional connections arising from diverse knowledge, skills, and perspectives; dialogue at the margins; resilience; imagination; creative and resourceful improvisation; and systems thinking. The culture and practices of organizational ingenuity integrate systems thinking into a framework designed to provoke the unconventional approaches to complex problems that produce exponentially better solutions for sustainable business and a sustainable world. As organizations develop broad-based cultures and capacities for ongoing innovation, there is a need to distinguish the concept and value of an innovation culture that integrates systems thinking and the resilient, empathetic, value-driven, collaborative, improvisational, diverse, counter-intuitive, paradoxical capacities of ingenuity.